How Long Can Cats Survive With Unmanaged Stomatitis? The Shocking Answer

What is Stomatitis in Cats?

Stomatitis is a condition that causes inflammation and ulcers in a cat’s mouth, including on the gums, tongue, lips, and throat (source). There are two main types of stomatitis in cats:

  • Gingivostomatitis – inflammation limited to the gums
  • Feline chronic stomatitis – inflammation of the gums, tongue, lips, and throat

Common symptoms of stomatitis in cats include:
– Red, swollen, and bleeding gums

– Excessive drooling
– Foul breath

– Difficulty eating or only eating soft foods
– Weight loss
– Lethargy and depression

Causes of Stomatitis in Cats

The exact cause of stomatitis in cats is not fully understood, but research points to a few main factors that can contribute to the development of this condition:

Bacterial, viral or fungal infections – Certain infections are thought to trigger an overactive immune response in some cats, leading to inflammation and sores in the mouth. Herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and bartonella bacteria are examples of infectious agents that have been associated with stomatitis.

Autoimmune disorders – In some cases, a cat’s immune system can mistakenly attack its own oral tissues. This is essentially an autoimmune reaction, where the body sees healthy cells as foreign invaders. The antibodies and inflammation produced can damage tissues in the mouth.

Injuries or trauma – Previous injuries to a cat’s mouth from foreign objects, burns or blunt force trauma could potentially make the tissues more prone to inflammation. Cuts, abrasions or wounds can allow bacteria to enter and proliferate.

While the underlying causes may vary, the end result is damage and painful inflammation of the tissues in a cat’s mouth. Identifying and addressing any primary diseases, infections or injuries is an important part of managing stomatitis. Consult a veterinarian to properly diagnose and determine the factors involved. Source

Progression of Untreated Stomatitis

If left untreated, stomatitis in cats will continue to progress and cause further inflammation and discomfort. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the inflammatory lesions will increase and become more widespread [1].

The main symptoms that tend to worsen over time without treatment include:

  • Increased pain and inflammation in the mouth
  • Greater difficulty eating due to oral discomfort
  • Progressive weight loss as eating becomes more difficult
  • Higher risk of secondary infections in the mouth due to open sores

PetMD notes that the inflammation can spread to involve more areas of the mouth such as the lips, cheeks, gums, and throat [2]. Severe cases that are left untreated can even lead to difficulty swallowing. Addressing stomatitis early is key to prevent the inflammation and pain from worsening over time.

Life Expectancy for Cats with Untreated Stomatitis

The life expectancy for cats with untreated stomatitis can vary greatly depending on the severity and progression of the condition. According to PetMD, “Stomatitis is a complex disease, and the lifespan of affected cats ranges from months to years depending on response to therapy.”

On average, once symptoms of stomatitis appear, cats have a lifespan of 2-3 years if the condition is left untreated. However, factors like the cat’s age at onset and how quickly the disease progresses can affect their prognosis.

Younger cats often respond better to treatment and have a better prognosis than older cats diagnosed with stomatitis. Cats with very aggressive stomatitis that worsens quickly despite therapy may only live for several months after diagnosis.

With proper at-home care and pain management, some cats with mild to moderate stomatitis can live comfortably for many years. But their quality of life ultimately depends on the severity of symptoms and how well they respond to palliative treatments. Working closely with a vet is key to preserving longevity in cats with this condition.

According to the Bolingbrook Veterinary Clinic, “While there is no known cure for stomatitis, an individually tailored treatment plan can effectively manage this condition, control symptoms, and maintain a good quality of life for years to come.”

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for cats with stomatitis, aimed at reducing inflammation and discomfort:

Antibiotics like clindamycin or doxycycline may be prescribed to fight secondary infections. Anti-inflammatories like corticosteroids help control inflammation – common options are prednisolone and dexamethasone. More potent immunosuppressants like cyclosporine may also be used to dampen the immune response causing inflammation.

Tooth extraction is often necessary, especially for severely affected teeth. Full mouth tooth extraction can give the best chance of controlling stomatitis inflammation. In some cases, a feeding tube may be placed to provide nutrition during treatment if the cat has trouble eating.

According to this article, cyclosporine is commonly used for stomatitis treatment in the USA, while interferon seems more effective in Europe. UC Davis has also trialed stem cell therapy with promising results.

As per VCA Hospitals, frequent dental cleanings, extractions, tooth brushing, and chlorhexidine rinses may help manage the condition at home alongside other treatments.

At-Home Care for Cats with Stomatitis

There are several things cat owners can do at home to help care for a cat with stomatitis and improve their quality of life:

Feeding a soft food diet is crucial, as dry food can be painful for cats with inflamed mouths. Canned or freshly cooked meat, fish, eggs, and vegetable purees are ideal. Adding some water or broth to the food can make it easier to eat and swallow. Ensure fresh water is always available to keep your cat hydrated.

Gently wiping your cat’s teeth and gums with a soft cloth moistened with salt water can help keep the mouth clean. There are also feline dental gels and oral rinses that can be applied. Be very gentle, as the mouth is likely painful.

Monitor your cat’s weight frequently, as stomatitis can make eating difficult and lead to weight loss. Feeding soft, calorie-dense foods in smaller, frequent meals may help maintain a healthy weight.

While these at-home care tips can help, it’s crucial to follow up regularly with your veterinarian if your cat has stomatitis. Left untreated, the condition is very painful and can significantly impact quality of life.

When to See a Veterinarian

If your cat is displaying any of the following symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible:

Difficulty eating – Cats with stomatitis often have a great deal of pain and inflammation in their mouth, which makes it very difficult and uncomfortable for them to eat. You may notice your cat drooling, having trouble picking up food, crying out when they try to eat, or avoiding eating altogether.

Excessive drooling – The inflamed tissues in your cat’s mouth often lead to increased saliva production and excessive drooling. You may see long strands of drool hanging from their mouth or find wet spots where they were laying.

Weight loss – If your cat is eating less due to the pain, they are likely to start losing weight. Monitor your cat’s weight and watch for any decrease over time. Even a small amount of weight loss in cats can be a red flag.

Lethargy – The constant pain and inflammation in the mouth can cause your cat to feel unwell overall. You may notice they are less energetic, sleeping more often, and seem generally depressed. This warrants a veterinary visit.

The earlier stomatitis can be diagnosed and treated, the better chance your cat has for managing symptoms long-term. Left untreated, stomatitis is incredibly painful and can greatly impact a cat’s quality of life. Don’t delay – schedule an exam if you notice any of the above symptoms in your cat.

Preventing Stomatitis in Cats

There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent their cats from developing stomatitis:

Proper dental care – Regular tooth brushing and professional dental cleanings can help remove plaque and tartar buildup that can lead to gingivitis and stomatitis. Brushing your cat’s teeth at home 2-3 times per week can greatly reduce plaque buildup. Getting professional dental cleanings done annually is also recommended.


Annual vet exams – Regular veterinary checkups allow early detection of oral health issues before they progress to stomatitis. Your vet can examine your cat’s mouth closely and detect any signs of gingivitis or other problems.


High quality diet – Feeding your cat a high quality diet with plenty of vitamins and nutrients can help keep their immune system strong and less prone to inflammation. Canned food or raw diets may be recommended instead of dry food to reduce plaque buildup.


Stress management – Since stress can negatively impact immune health, minimizing stressors in your cat’s environment can be beneficial. Providing adequate playtime, proper litter box maintenance, and keeping their routine consistent can all help reduce stress.


Caring for a Cat with Chronic Stomatitis

Caring for a cat with chronic stomatitis requires ongoing management and treatment. This often involves regular veterinary monitoring, medications, a soft food diet, and potential tooth extractions.

Cats with persistent stomatitis require close monitoring by a veterinarian to assess their condition and response to treatment. Regular check-ups allow the vet to examine the cat’s mouth, adjust medications if needed, and provide ongoing care recommendations. Bloodwork may be done periodically to check for issues like anemia or kidney problems resulting from chronic inflammation and pain.

Medications commonly prescribed for stomatitis in cats include anti-inflammatory drugs like steroids to reduce inflammation and immunosuppressants to modulate the immune response. Antibiotics may also be given to prevent secondary infections. Pain medications are often provided as well to keep the cat comfortable. Cats generally require medications long-term to manage this chronic condition.

Feeding a soft, canned food diet is recommended for cats with stomatitis to reduce pain and irritation from eating dry kibbles. Wet foods are easier to swallow and don’t aggravate the inflamed oral tissues. Adding water to food to make a gruel can further help cats that have difficulty eating.

Extracting some or all of the teeth may ultimately be needed to treat refractory cases of stomatitis in cats. Removing affected teeth eliminates sources of inflammation and discomfort. Cats generally recover well from full-mouth tooth extractions and can adapt to eating soft foods without teeth.

With diligent at-home care and working closely with a veterinarian, cats with chronic stomatitis can live comfortably despite this challenging oral disease.

Quality of Life Considerations

Stomatitis can greatly impact a cat’s quality of life. It’s important for cat owners to focus on the following to ensure the best possible quality of life for a cat with stomatitis:

Ensuring nutrition/hydration – Cats with stomatitis often have a very painful mouth, making eating and drinking difficult. Owners may need to syringe feed soft food, use feeding tubes, or mix medications into food to encourage eating. Keeping cats hydrated is also critical. Source

Controlling pain – Stomatitis is an extremely painful condition for cats. Pain management with medications prescribed by a vet is key. Some cats may need stronger pain medication to stay comfortable. Source 2

Limiting stress – Stress can exacerbate stomatitis symptoms. Keeping cats in a low-stress, comfortable environment is important. Using pheromone sprays or diffusers can help relieve stress. Source 3

Knowing when to euthanize – In severe cases where treatments have failed and quality of life is very poor, euthanasia may need to be considered. It’s a difficult decision, but preventing unnecessary suffering is the top priority.

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